No. 3 Utah Remains Undefeated In Pac-12 Play, Downs No. 14 UCLA 197.225-197.100
SALT LAKE CITY – Two Pac-12 powerhouses put on a thriller Friday night in the Jon M. Huntsman Center as No. 3 Utah (7-1, 4-0 Pac-12) defeated No. 14 UCLA (4-1, 3-1 Pac-12) in a meet that came down to the final routine for the second-straight year. To remain undefeated in conference action, senior Sydney Soloski posted a 9.925 on floor to clinch the 197.225-197.100 win.
"It was a hard-fought win tonight," said head coach Tom Farden. "We definitely feel that wasn't our best performance because on three of the events, we felt like at least one routine was a little subpar. However, we love the fight. Our athletes never gave up and had each other's backs all the way through. We had enough to get out with the win and I am proud of the team's hunger to continue to fight to the end."
Utah led after each rotation, though the margin was within striking distance for UCLA the entire meet. The Red Rocks went into the final rotation with just a 0.1 lead over the Bruins. Jaylene Gilstrap returned to the floor lineup and did not disappoint as she captivated the small crowd of friends and family with her elegant routine that led off the lineup with a 9.875. Abby Paulson bounced back in a big way for Utah after she suffered an uncharacteristic fall on beam and tied her career high of 9.90 to keep the momentum going. Meanwhile, UCLA posted the same scores in its first two routines on beam.
The Utes then received a pair of 9.875s from Lucy Stanhope and Jaedyn Rucker to keep the slight lead with two routines left for both teams. After a mistake that cost Maile O'Keefe to collect just a 9.75, the meet was left in the senior anchor Soloski's hands where she left no doubt and tallied a 9.925 to clinch the win. Utah collectively totaled a season-high 49.450 on floor to edge UCLA.
"My mindset was the same as it always is," said Soloski on her meet-winning routine. "My goal is always to hit. I just wanted to fight until the end and that is not much different from my mindset normally. I was really proud of everyone that went before me. Everyone knew what their job was going into that last rotation, rose to the occasion and delivered."
Utah started the meet by jumping out to an early 49.300-49.100 lead from the vault set. Cristal Isa started the lineup with a 9.825 and was followed by O'Keefe's 9.80. Kicking off Utah's four Yurchenko 1.5s was big vault from Stanhope that matched last meet's career-best with a 9.875. Cammy Hall stumbled on her landing and looking to drop her score, Alexia Burch put things back into motion as she powered off the table and tallied her second-straight 9.975. Rucker rounded out the rotation with a 9.825 to round out the five Ute scorers.
The bars set for Utah struggled to find a rhythm, but managed to maintain the lead at the halfway point. Isa and O'Keefe led the lineup once again and scored 9.875s to pace the group. Utah collected 9.825s from Alani Sabado, Burch, and Emilie LeBlanc to round out the scorers and give the bars set a 49.225 event score.
With the lead sitting at 98.525-98.275 heading into beam, Burch wrapped up her excellent night with a 9.85 to kick off the set. Stanhope posted a 9.775 as the second Ute up and was followed with a 9.85 from Adrienne Randall. Isa hopped on the beam and scored a 9.875, which led into another exceptional routine from O'Keefe that scored a 9.90.
An uncharacteristic fall from Paulson in the anchor spot left Utah unable to better the rotation score (49.250) and held on to just a tenth lead – 147.775 to 147.675 – before the Ute floor lineup took the meet into its own hands and posted a season-high effort to remain undefeated in conference action.
Utah will be back in the Huntsman Center next Friday, Feb. 26, welcoming the California Golden Bears to continue conference play. Utah and Cal will square off at 7 p.m. MT on the Pac-12 Networks.